The Orion Woods Brigade
ove and a .22

I am often asked by my fellows about the one gun.

If you are involved in any matter of shooting - sports or hobby - then you know all about the one gun. It's the one gun you would grab on your way out to door when TSHTF*

This simple question can elicit all sorts of response from heated debate, to downright ugliness, to friendship-ending arguments.

When picking a single weapon for post-TCOWC** scenarios, I focus on a few things:

  • Versatility of ammunition
  • Scroungability of ammunition
  • Concealability
  • Ease of carry
  • Total reliability and/or ability to function in a "rough" environment
Let's examine each of these issues and see why I came up with the ubiquitous .22LR as my weapon of choice.

Versatility of ammunition

Foremost, you want a weapon that can do a lot of things. Sure a .30-06 can kill most any and everything on the North American continent, but when you are talking about the difference between taking out a deer and a rabbit - the round will have the same intended effect on both types of game - but the end result of the rabbit vs. the 30.06 may not yield a whole lot of usable meat.

A .22 can kill most game animals in a pinch. Sure you won't be able to sit on the side of one valley and throw a well-aimed slug into the next, but sitting up in a tree on a known game trail could get definitely get a deer. As long as you focus on head shots (practice, practice) you can make it work. Realistically, there are a lot more rabbits and squirrels in the woods then deer. Think about all of the times when you are out deer hunting, sitting quietly on the side of a tree, when out comes a squirrel to give you the business and chatter at you. If you are in a survival situation, a one-day meal from a squirrel is better than waiting a few days for one deer. This time of "small-game" mentality also lets you stay mobile - not having to worry about dragging a deer carcass all over creation.

Just remember that most state game laws prohibit the use of .22LR or rim-fire weapons for use on game animals. Know your laws and don't be stupid. If you are in a real survival situation, all bets are off.

In a true TSHTF scenario a .22 is also a fine "upgrade" weapon - meaning you can use it to upgrade to other weapons. I'll leave that one to the imagination (think - Liberator).

Scroungability of ammunition

There is no ammunition more common that the .22LR. If you are in a situation where you have to search around rural gas stations, abandoned deer camps and other desolate areas, chances are good that if you find any ammunition, it sure isn't going to be for your 7.5mm French MAS rifle. The only caliber that I think even comes close is 12ga shotgun rounds.

.22LR riles and pistols (especially bolt-action rifles) can usually shoot most of the more unusual varieties of .22 as well - .22CB, .22 Rifle, and .22 shorts will all feed and function in most .22LR - just don't expect them to cycle back the automatics. .22 WMR (.22 Magnum) will not work in .22 LR.


Realistically, you are most likely not going to be able to run off into the woods and live like Dan Frontier at the first sign of a problem.

As much as we like to fantasize about it, the reality is that real-life survival situations occur much more likely around normal life, civilized society (or its fringes), and common accidents. Let's say you are traveling with your wife and kids out of state or to a remote state park and you break down on the side of the road. Though a folding-stock AK-47 would be an awesome choice to keep you and your family safe, chances are you won't be in a situation where you can sling one on your back and start hiking down the road. A .22LR pistol - or even a rifle - can be easily concealed on your person or in your luggage without arousing undue alarm. You are able to keep it hidden until you need to use it - an important factor for survial in urban or semi-urban environments.

What's that you say? I'd be better off carrying a Glock or 1911? I agree, but for self-defense against human aggressors - which isn't always the applicable survival scenario.

Ease of carry

Though most .22LR rifles and pistols are generally lighter, what I am really talking about here is the lightness of .22LR ammunition.

For the same amount of weight as a fully-loaded AR-15 magazine, you can carry close to 300 rounds of .22LR. This gives you close to 300 chances to scare away bad people, harvest some yummy woodland creatures, cut small tree limbs/saplings, etc.

But I will readily admit that it lacks the style and cool-factor of the AR-15. :)

Total reliability and/or ability to function in a "rough" environment

Ok, I think detractors here will point out that a smaller caliber means smaller parts, tighter tolerances, etc. - which are all valid concerns.

However, one of the big things going for the .22LR is that its overall lack of recoil and the small amount of powder that it uses, means there are less vibrations (stress) on the action and less fouling in the gun, respectively. Now, I am not the world's best gun cleaner (my Dad actually gets this award), but growing up I was allowed to keep my .22 rifle and maintain it all by myself. Sure my Dad would check in from time to time, but mostly it was hands off. Despite my best attempts at poor firearm maintenance, I never had any problems. Now of course this doesn't mean you can run off and buy some crappy European AR clone rifle and think it will perform like a Ruger 10-22. You have to stick with quality weapons:

  • Pistols - Ruger Mk II, Browning Buckmark, Colt Scout
  • Rifles - Marlin Model 60, Ruger 10-22, Remington Nylon 66, or almost any Remington bolt-actions

Most .22LRs that I have dealt with work best with either lead bullets or copper-jacketed bullets - and by sticking to either one or the other. Most AR-7s need to have their feed ramps filed down - ever so slightly - to ensure consistent feeding. Every gun has its intricacies and slight mods it needs to make it function with 100% reliability. Never trust a weapon fresh out of the box to work exactly how you need it without upgrades.

Find one that works for you and someone who has experience with it to get the right ideas on how to keep it happy.

I'll make mine a .22LR.

- Many Rifles

*TSHTF - The Shit Hits The Fan
**TCOWC - Total Collapse of Western Civilization

See also -

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